Reflections

We have been back in Alberta for a week now, the jet lag has faded and I have had time to look over our pictures and think about the trip. So some final reflections on the places we visited….

Berlin
Berlin is full of history – with such significant 20th century events – and museums abound, telling those stories and those of more distant history, as well as featuring an abundance of art treasures. It is a gritty city; outside the tourist centre, graffiti covers almost any reachable surface and in the early morning, you encounter litter of bottles and fast food wrappers. But it gives the impression of a livable city – unpretentious and vibrant, full of new construction as the former East Berlin still grows, 24 years after the fall of the wall. Also, the local people were so helpful – offering assistance when we hadn’t even asked!

Having visited Berlin, would I return? It’s not on the top of the list, but given the opportunity, I wouldn’t pass it by. I would like to delve a bit more into the history, by taking a walking tour and spending more time on Museum Island. I would also like to visit Potsdam and take a boat ride on the Spree.
20131029-140424.jpgDresden
We arrived in Dresden in the early afternoon and departed the next morning, so my impressions are fleeting. The central core we visited was an interesting mix of the old and new – or perhaps the new and the new made to look old, as 75% of the Old Town was destroyed by WWII bombing and many of the historical sights have been reconstructed. We were in Dresden on the Day of German Unity, a national holiday commemorating the reunification in 1990, so my impression is of a busy, fun area, full of local German families enjoying their day. Probably not the scene every day, but it made for a fun day for us as we mingled with the locals, enjoying wurst and Gluwein (hot mulled wine).

On another visit to Dresden (again, not topping the list, but worth consideration if in the area) , I would take the time to actually know what I was looking at, rather than just admiring the fine Baroque architecture. I would like to visit the interior of the Frauenkirche – this church from 1743 was completely destroyed by bombing, but was painstakingly rebuilt with international donations and reopened recently. Unfortunately, due to the holiday, the line-up was prohibitive when we were there. Other sights to include on a possible future visit are the Historic Green Vault, which houses a glittering Baroque treasury, and Volkswagon’s Transparent Factory where the Phaeton is produced.
20131029-140549.jpgPrague
Ah, Prague – what a beautiful city! I would describe ‘Praha’ as charming, historic and so unique. The architecture is amazing – the city of spires and an eclectic mix of architecture, ranging from Gothic and Renaissance to Baroque and Art Nouveau. All of the people we encountered were so friendly and made us feel welcome in their city. The opportunities for entertainment are many and varied – street performers, classical concerts, black light theatre…… And the food – we ate in small, local restaurants that rival some of the best I have encountered anywhere.

I would love to return to Prague – to wander the streets, to try more small restaurants and to further explore the sights – more time in the Castle and Jewish Quarters, a concert at the Opera House and a paddle boat on the river.
20131029-162451.jpgCesky Krumlov
Cesky Krumlov is a well-preserved fairy tale town. The narrow streets are fun to stroll through and the castle gardens are beautiful. The small town is probably crazy during the height of tourist season, but on an October afternoon and evening, it was delightful.

If passing by Krumlov in the future, I would probably stop in for a night at the wonderful Penzion Delanta and enjoy the ambiance of the town again.
20131029-162828.jpgVienna
Vienna is an elegant, opulent city, with wide boulevards, beautiful architecture, grand classical music and shopping for the rich and famous. But away from the central area, it is home to small excellent restaurants and coffee shops, concerts in historic venues and everyday people enjoying their lives.

I can’t quite put my finger on why, but Vienna captivated my interest and I would love to return. I would visit the Opera House, attend another concert and a church service in one of the beautiful churches, watch the Lipizaner Stallions practice or perform and spend an evening at a wine tavern. I would love to take a day cruise through the Danube Valley or return to visit the Christmas market in December!
20131029-163430.jpg Salzburg
The hills really are alive in Austria. Travelling through the countryside, especially with the fall foliage, was awe-inspiring – similar, and yet very different, from travelling through the wonder of our Rocky Mountains.

Salzburg shows a different side of Austria from Vienna. It has a well preserved old town, a foreboding fortress, beautiful gardens, pride in Mozart everywhere and the Sound of Music! But it also seems fresh, outdoorsy and fun!

We didn’t have enough time in Salzburg and I would love to return to visit the Fortress, Hellbrunn Castle, spend another evening at the Augustiner Braustubl and travel to the lakes district.
20131029-170157.jpg Rothenburg ob der Tauber
It was a treat to visit Rothenburg. This well-preserved medieval walled town is visited by 2.5 million tourists per year, and there is a reason why! It is magical, transporting you to the Middle Ages when it was a free imperial city and a major trading stop. There are sights to see, and we enjoyed visiting some of them, but it was such fun to just explore the many small narrow streets, walk the wall, wander through the beautiful countryside outside the wall and snap photos at every turn. The Nightwatchman’s Tour is a must, again accentuating the feeling of being in the Middle Ages while outlining the history of the town.

I think we covered most every street inside the walls of old Rothenburg, so as much as we loved Rothenburg, we probably wouldn’t return – unless it was to share this fabulous experience with someone who hadn’t previously visited.
20131029-170637.jpg Wurzburg
Wurzburg wasn’t even on our trip itinerary, but we had some time to kill enroute from Rothenburg to Frankfurt, so we stopped in and were pleased that we did. We only spent a few hours, so again my impressions are from a quick look. As we drove in and out of the city, it could have been most any large city anywhere – there appeared to be urban sprawl and we could see a city skyline of tall buildings (not something we had typically seen on this trip). The Old Town that we visited was a lively, downtown area with a mix of old and new and we enjoyed wandering there.

If I were to have some time to spare on a future trip beginning or ending in Frankfurt, I might again stop in Wurzburg and further explore the Residenz Palace and the Marienberg Fortress.
20131029-170951.jpgIt was a marvellous trip – we saw so many wonderful sights, learned so much history, ate great food, drank great beer, wine & coffee and walked many kilometres. We are so lucky to be able to take trips like this and I can hardly wait for next time! Stay tuned for the next stops along our long and winding journey!

Cheers,

Bev & Harvey

We Need to Get Out of Town. . . Fast

Debbie again, with another review, this time of dinner and theatre in Rothenburg, Germany.

It did not start out to be dinner and theatre, but that is how it progressed, ending with a potential scandal and the need for us to get out of Rothenburg quickly.

The original innocent plan was to have supper at the Burgerkeller (which has nothing at all to do with burgers American style) followed by the Night Watchman tour. As the Night Watchman tour is known as the thing ‘to do’ in Rothenburg, and as the Burgerkeller came highly rated by Rick Steeves, Lonely Planet and Wonder and Wanderlust, we felt we were in for a safe evening.

We need to set the stage a little. After spending an evening and a full day in the old town of Rothenburg which remains protected by a huge fortress, and after walking virtually every street (about 10 in total!) and literally walking the wall (the enclosed walkway on the top of the fortress), we soon came to learn that it is a small place where everyone probably knew everyone, but we did not yet know just how true this was.

We arrived at the downstairs Burgerkeller to find all tables marked ‘Reserved’ but the place was empty. We asked if there was room, and the sole waiter pointed us to one ‘Reserved’ table. We perused the menu, ordered, and started talking to the ‘waiter’ who turned out to be the owner. He explained that the tables weren’t really reserved, he had let all the staff go for the month while he and the cook took charge as this was their slow season, and he wanted to ensure top quality of food, so by marking the tables ‘Reserved’, he could decide how many people were in the restaurant (and, we decided, just who exactly he wanted as customers). We clearly made the cut. We continued to chat or, rather, he continued to entertain us by telling jokes, some off colour, and showing us his newest toy, a remote helicopter. One of his jokes had to do with the Night Watchman who apparently takes two months off in winter to go to Thailand with his wife – “He goes to Thailand with his wife? That’s like taking a bottle of beer into the Hofbrau House.” In the course of his tirade, he told us that his lease was up at the end of December and, after 27 years, he is going into another line of ‘business’, of which he was not about to share. He did share, however, when Larry complimented him on his perfect English and asked if he has lived in an English speaking country, that he had honed his language skills during his two year stint in Quantonomo! His banter continued with perfect comedic pause as he chose to let some people in the door and denied access to others . . . . The meals arrived, and they were exceptional. We left feeling great and thinking that perhaps he should go into comedy for his next career.
20131019-182850.jpgOnto the Night Watchman tour just up the street. The night was dark and windy with little spits of rain, perfect for a spooky walk through old town Rothenburg.
20131019-183015.jpg The Night Watchman appeared out of the dark. He was tall, had long curly hair, was dressed in black robes and carried a lantern and a menacing all-purpose tool, good for stabbing or cutting off heads or whatever was required at any given misdemeanour. We followed him down the cobble streets, stopping at strategic points to listen to his stories. He told us the history of Rothenburg, of fires and of bubonic plague and of battles that were saved at the last moment because some American army general’s mother had visited Rothenbug in 1914, and he felt that was worthy reason to save the city. It was a highly entertaining tour, made so by the Night Watchman’s manner, voice, and sense of humour.
20131019-183108.jpgWe started heading back to our pension for the night, commenting about what a great night it was. Then it dawned on me that when I was trying on a dress in a little store earlier in the day, a tall man with long curly hair had walked in and pointed to the dressing room. Hmmmmm. We started to think that everyone in this town was connected, and I commented that I could just see Walter, our pension operator, and the Night Watchman drinking beer together.

Fast forward to morning. Larry and I are in the breakfast room, and Larry starts chatting with Walter and is telling him about the Night Watchman Tour and the supper at the Burgerkeller. He told Walter that the owner of the Burgerkeller might be closing his doors very soon and going to another line of business, to which Walter responded, “Hmm, that is very good information.” Larry then asked him if he happened to know the Night Watchman, and he responded, “Yes, he is my brother in law.” Well, then I told him that I had been into a little dress shop and bought a dress, and Walter told us that the Night Watchman is married to Walter’s wife’s sister, and they own the dress shop.

Now the problem is that we had toured the Crime and Punishment Museum earlier that date, and one of the worst offences in medieval times, punishable by head yokes and any other means of violence, was to spread gossip. We looked at each other and decided that we needed to get out of Rothenburg, fast, in order to preserve our lives as we just know that Walter walked back to the kitchen, told his wife the “good information” he had received, and she promptly called her sister, who told her husband (aka the Night Watchman) – and the little community inside the walls of Rothenburg would be abuzz. By my calculation, the operator of the Burgerkeller would have the ‘news’ that he was shutting down by the time he opened for the evening.

Seriously, we had a hilarious evening. We strongly recommend the Burgerkeller and the Night Watchman tour for a great evening in Rothenburg. Just don’t spread gossip in this town!

PS. Anybody out there think we might have been set up???

Honey – back in the war, we would have been happy to have just a bit of butter

It was a windy, cool morning in Rothenburg but the sun came out and the wind died down as the day went by, resulting in quite a pleasant afternoon. We started the day with a very nice breakfast provided by Walter and his wife, Heike. Little touches like mini-yogurt parfaits and egg slices with caviar on top were quite a pleasant surprise.

Our first excursion of the day took us to the Kriminalmuseum (Medieval Crime and Punishment). This was a very interesting experience. The exhibits describe the judicial system and the punishments doled out. Many of the actual instruments of torture (for this was used as a way of obtaining a confession) and punishment are on display.

Public shaming was very common for minor offences.
20131017-221216.jpgMore serious offences usually resulted in a death sentence – with quite a variety of ways to handle this.
20131017-221345.jpg The torture and punishment exhibits were quite disconcerting and regardless of what we may think of today’s judicial system, we have certainly come a long way in humane treatment!

The museum also contains a number of exhibits of ancient documents – personal papers (e.g., birth & marriage certificates, work papers & certification), Royal decrees, papal election records, etc. These were very interesting and the age of many of them was quite amazing (e.g., 9th century).

After the museum, we felt we needed something more uplifting. D&L popped into a few shops, making a couple of purchases, and then took a coffee break. H&B took in the German Christmas Museum. This museum traces the history of the celebrations and traditions that are part of our modern Christmas. We really enjoyed the displays of Christmas trees & decorations, the origin of Santa Claus, advent calendars, Christmas cards, etc. We then spent quite a bit of time browsing through the many rooms of the attached Christmas store – to find the perfect souvenir ornament.
20131017-221948.jpgMeeting back up at Marktplatz, we made a brief foray into New Town for Harv to stop by the Ford dealer and pick up a few brochures for his collection (it seems he can read German when it is auto related).

We stayed outside the wall and followed a path through the woods and down to the Tauber River, where we saw the Tauberschlosschen (Toppler Castle). This tiny tower was built partly as a defensive tower, partly as a moated castle residence in 1388.
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20131017-222354.jpgWe had a bit of a picnic by the side of the road and then undertook the climb back up from the valley. Continuing on paths outside the wall, we passed a vineyard, exclaimed at the magnificent views and arrived at the Kobolzell Church, which dates back to 14th century. Next to the church stands a Roman-style double bridge.
20131017-222903.jpgBack in the the old town, we stopped for a coffee and schneeballen break. These Rothenburg specialties are everywhere you look in the town. Basically a ball of pastry that has been deep-fried, they come in varieties that are coated with various things. Yesterday we had tried a sugared variety and were not very impressed. Today we decided to give it one more shot with the chocolate covered version and it was much more tasty – also, the pastry seemed much lighter at this shop than the other. One other note – apparently, schneeballen have an 8 week shelf life. This helped to answer our question of what they did with all the ones that hadn’t sold at the end of a day.
20131017-223345.jpgWe had an excellent evening – but I am going to leave that to our entertainment critic to review in a blog posting tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Cheers,

B,H,D&L

Mr. Diblik is probably from Dinkelsbuhl…..

It was raining this morning as we had to say good-bye to Sandra and the Haus Katrin, after another excellent breakfast. We would definitely recommend this pension to anyone travelling to Salzburg.

We headed out on the Motorway – which became the Autobahn when we entered Germany. It rained quite heavily, but eventually stopped, settling into an overcast day. Harv enjoyed the speed of the traffic, cruising at about 140 km/hr and hitting a high of 200.

The fall foliage was wonderful – brilliant yellows, oranges and reds. And for those of you who know us, you will know that we are connoisseurs of fall foliage.
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20131016-212523.jpgWe arrived in Rothenburg ob der Tauber and after manoeuvring through the gate in the town wall and the narrow cobble-stone streets, Petula & Harvey deposited us at the Kreuzerhof Hotel. Walter, our host, met us and got us all settled in. We then set out to explore Rothenburg.

Rothenburg is Germany’s best-preserved medieval walled town. It was a major trading stop from 1150 – 1400 and today, exists as a tourist haven. However, despite the tourists, it’s charm is undeniable. Luckily, it appears that this is not the time of year for major tourist traffic, especially later in the day.

We just wandered around the town for a couple of hours, including a walk on the town wall. Around each corner was another amazing scene. Here are just a few of the 104 pictures I snapped.
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20131016-213514.jpgFor dinner, we stopped at a restaurant recommended by Walter. Debbie, Larry & I all had the pork ribs with salad while Harv ordered the sausage & sauerkraut (knowing that I will never offer sauerkraut once we are home). All of the dishes were great, as were the wine, beer and the skewer that a new friend of ours’ from Florida received. 🙂

20131016-214333.jpg We returned to the hotel to enjoy the sparkling wine provided by Walter & Heike.

Cheers,

B,H,D&L